Before the storm

The weather was so hot three days ago. The temperature reached 37 degrees (about 100F), and taking a walk outside was the best way to loose liters of water within a few minutes. Streets were deserted, and people were finding refuge in the air-conditioned metro stations, buildings hallways and shopping centers. The temperature dropped a little two days ago, as the wind started to blow the city. From my office on the 18th floor I could see banners floating, pushed away by the invisible force from the sea. This strong wing sometimes reminds us that Shanghai is a city on the sea (上海 literally means “on the sea”), although we see so little of it. The more and more clouds made the sky darker and darker, as night fell much earlier than usual. We were all waiting for the storm to splash the city coming from the Southern provinces and we were all apprehending it… but the storm did not come. Yesterday morning brought a feeling of relief, as the sky cleared. The very idea of a storm seemed just like a collective nightmare…
Pictures of last year’s storm come through my mind, torrent of rain pouring, wind blowing the trees downs, cars looking like boats floating in half a meter of water. There are not many storms like this in Shanghai. Typhoons in Hong Kong are very frequent, people simply leave offices and go home when the drill comes. They are prepared, ready for the tempest descending on the city. Typhoons are rare in Shanghai, and the city is far from ready for it. Last year, many of the luxury villas of the suburb were flooded, the designer just did not think so much rain could fall on them. Some friends got water coming into their expensive apartment, as the construction was just no thick enough to resist the pressure. The wind blew also an advertising sign killing several people in its flight. I cannot stop thinking that some of the stuff hanging on balconies on tours and skyscrapers could easily take off and fall on somebody.
The wind has started to blow again today, even stronger than yesterday. Trees are starting to shake, clouds are flying fast in the sky. The whole city is going through the anticipation, the presentiment of the events to come. Everyone knows the storm is coming, everyone can feel it. All streets are crowded, all taxis are taken by people trying to reach home as soon as possible. The city will become a gigantic traffic jam tonight, before getting quiet under the pouring rain. The ambiance is electric, expectancy mixed with fear and haste. The atmosphere before the storm is just really special.

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